In New Jersey, Courts have the power to dictate how college tuition will be handled. In a divorce case, both parents have an obligation to support their children, which includes paying college education expenses. When determining how much a parent must contribute to the cost of the children’s college education, the Court must consider twelve non-exclusive factors. Those factors are as follows:
- Whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education.
- The effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education.
- The amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education.
- The ability of the parent to pay that cost.
- The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child.
- The financial resources of both parties.
- The commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education.
- The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust.
- The ability of the child to earn an income during the school year or on vacation.
- The availability of any financial aid in the form of college grants and loans.
- The child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance.
- The relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child.
It is important to note that the Courts have ruled that the exclusion of the non-custodial parent in the college selection process weighs against the non-custodial parent’s obligation to contribute to the subsequent post-secondary educational expenses. The Courts have further specified that a parent seeking contribution to their child’s college expenses should initiate the application to the Court before the college expenses are incurred, and that the failure to do so will weigh heavily against the grant of an application for college contribution.